As romantic psychological thrillers go, Wicker Park is so complex it makes Vertigo look like "Jack and Jill." Matthew (Josh Hartnett) is obsessed with Lisa (Diane Kruger), a girl he's spotted one day. But connecting with her is a problem, further complicated by the machinations of Alex (Rose Byrne), a friend of Lisa's who is similarly besotted by Matthew.
Wicker Park is based on the 1996 French film L'Appartement, and has all of the Gallic stress on l'amour at its fou-est (or most crazy). It seems to take a confused eternity to get started, but once director Paul McGuigan's m.o. finally becomes apparent, the thing takes on a dogged kind of interest. You know, of course, that Matthew and Lisa will hook up; the fun is in how McGuigan ravels and then unravels the exposition. He uses a battery of bewildering flashbacks, as well as trendy split-screens, freeze-frames, differing film speeds and sound effects to texture things. The medium indeed becomes the message, as, apart from Byrne, none of the characters is particularly involving. In time, this will probably attain a cult sort of status among particularly sentimental 20-somethings, a Portrait of Jenny for their time, crossed with a milder version of Fatal Attraction.
Hartnett remains a teen heartthrob for obvious reasons: His cutely woebegone mien and unthreatening air are what lots of little girls dream about in a boyfriend. However, he's called upon to do a more senior, tragic kind of devout lover here, and he's simply not up to it. Even at his most romantically bereft, he evokes a tearful little boy who's been told to stand in a corner (which may just increase his youth appeal). Kruger, cast as an ultimate dream girl, as she was as Helen in Troy, again is merely adequate, lacking in every department of serious allure, save a bland, blonde beauty out of shampoo commercials. Her Troy co-star, Byrne, really has the best part in the film and hungrily sinks her pretty little teeth into it, like a junior Ida Lupino. Despite Alex's heinous actions, Byrne is so touching and feistily determined, you end up rooting for her, and also wondering just what she sees in vanilla Matthew. Matthew Lillard has a really thankless part, as a sideline watcher/wannabe participant in this love triangle, which he performs with good grace and as much slacker-ish humor as he can muster.